Bayou Brief: Bill Cassidy is Unseasoned Potato Salad

Bill Cassidy is unseasoned potato salad.

With raisins.

Read me out. I’m a frontline physician who’s been fighting COVID since the beginning. In fact, I came straight off maternity leave after the birth of my first (and amazing) child into the pandemic as a hospitalist. I’m not sure I’ve ever been as anxious as I was being post-partum in a pandemic with a brand-new virus. The thought of giving my infant, pre-term son a potentially deadly and untreatable disease was harder to bear than being separated from him, and I could barely tolerate that. 

Doctors from all over the country came together (virtually) to share information and best practices. People clapped for us at shift change. Planes flew overhead in honor of “healthcare heroes.” There was a great deal of unity and support. 

And then the tide turned. 

The President started giving medical advice. Mask-wearing became a political hot potato. The war against COVID was supplanted by the war against science. We went from being hailed as heroes to money-grubbing saboteurs hiding the real cure.

As mask-wearing went down, COVID numbers went up. We were drowning in patients, stress, and misinformation. I looked to our leaders for help. I begged and pleaded with state representatives, senators, city council members, and parish commissioners. “Please,” I wrote, “if education and persuasion to do the right thing aren’t working, do something else!”

Senator Bill Cassidy is a DOCTOR. Why wasn’t he on the bullhorn telling everyone what every sane physician in the field knew to be true? Aside from the occasional threadbare Facebook post saying “masks work,” we barely heard a peep from him.

Had Dr. Cassidy flexed his expertise and been an ally, we would have lost far fewer lives in Louisiana. But he didn’t. Instead, Senator Cassidy shook hands and snapped unmasked photos with constituents in Shreveport the same day he was diagnosed with coronavirus. He was no more helpful than Trump, just less boisterous. 

When asked whether the President should hold large rallies amidst a global pandemic, DOCTOR Cassidy cheekily replied, “All we have to fear is fear of the virus itself,” then added, “I’m with the President on this one.” More than 200,000 Americans have since died. As the virus spread, he whispered about the efficacy of safety protocols hoping not to anger his maskless boss. The stage was set for Cassidy to put his medical degree to great use on a massive scale, and he cowered before the politics of the moment. 

I’m not a politician. It seems kind of awful to be one. But I have to believe that if I were in Cassidy’s position, regardless of whether it would put me at odds with the President, I would KEEP MY OATH TO FIRST DO NO HARM. I would put my country ahead of my political party and arm my constituents with the most accurate information available. Because when lives are at stake, it is the right thing to do.

Mayor Adrian Perkins did the right thing. He listened to the experts and took action. Even before the governor, Perkins issued a citywide mask mandate. He stepped out on the political ledge to save lives because public safety trumps politics (pun intended). 

I later asked Perkins if he was afraid the night before the announcement — he is after all a politician, and this was going to upset a lot of people. I’ve only spoken to him twice, but his answer impressed me: “Maybe it’s my military training, but I wasn’t afraid of anything. Once the decision is made and I know it’s the right thing to do, I don’t question it any further. Come what may.”

That sounds like a campaign commercial, but it’s real. COVID is real. The stress of an out-of-control pandemic is real. The misinformation that came out of the White House is real. Senator Cassidy’s silence – that was real. As real as the cracks in our flailing healthcare system.

Unfortunately, Dr. Cassidy’s aversion to his oath does not stop with the pandemic. He also sponsored the Graham-Cassidy repeal bill, which would have stripped 21 million Americans of health insurance. Getting non-pandemic care for uninsured patients is next to impossible; I can’t imagine half-a-million MORE uninsured Louisianians during this crisis. What a nightmare!

By contrast, Perkins’ senate campaign is laser focused on protecting health care for those with pre-existing conditions and expanding coverage for the underserved. He’s also our best chance to unseat Bill Cassidy, earning endorsements from President Obama, Governor John Bel Edwards, and Vice Presidential nominee Kamala Harris.

So why isn’t he a Senate villain like his deskmate John Kennedy or South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham? Honestly, I believe it’s because he’s potato salad. In the lurid era of soundbite news, where the most ridiculous voices get airtime, Cassidy is tame. You look at him and think, “Oh, that’s just potato salad. He’s not bothering anyone.” 

When you look closer, however – you see it.

Bill Cassidy is potato salad. Unseasoned potato salad, with raisins, that has gone bad and will set the whole state to rot if we continue to let him sit there.

And don’t we know better than that?

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